Audience Advisories

A Bit of Background on Audience Advisories

IU Cinema acknowledges that every person approaches film from their individual life experiences, and, as a result, audiences’ sensitivities to content vary significantly from person to person. We also know that our audience trusts us and the programming we present, and we take that trust seriously.

The reality of film programming is that it is impossible for anyone at IU Cinema to watch, in its entirety, every film we screen. Trust us, we wish we could. It’s a bit of a trade secret, but this is how programming happens at art house theaters all over the world!

While we’ve provided audience advisories in the past, they were never comprehensive: some films that had sensitive content also had some corresponding advisories; others did not. Sometimes we did not find content offensive, but some audience members did, and vice versa. Despite our best efforts and intentions, this produced mixed results: advisories fell through the cracks, and some screenings led to audience members having negative experiences. To do all we can to ensure this happens as infrequently as possible, we have reworked our approach to audience advisories.

What Now?

Balancing the fact that the Cinema is not able to provide comprehensive audience advisories for the films we screen with the affirmation that we are committed to empowering our audiences to take care of their mental, physical, and emotional health, it is important that you know the following:

IU Cinema proudly presents a wide variety of films. We also believe in transparency, and that resources should be made available concerning content which audiences may find sensitive or upsetting. It’s important that our audiences know that any film screened at IU Cinema could contain the following sensitive content: graphic violence, gore, offensive language, drug use, sexual assault, religious themes, offensive cultural depictions, bias-motivated violence, bodily harm to people and/or animals, and frank depictions of sexuality and/or nudity. Some films may also contain flashing lights or images. 

Is this a long list? Yes. Are we likely missing some content areas audiences may find offense? Absolutely. We do our best to remain transparent while also owning that we may (likely) fail to address all concerns. To help fill that gap, and to encourage media literacy, we have curated the below resources to help audiences decide if a film is for them.

IMDb is a great site for watching trailers. On all our film pages, we link to the IMDb site where the official film trailer is viewable. YouTube can also be a great place to watch trailers, but you may run into some “spoiler” videos here, too! Please know: older films and very new films may not have trailers available.

Does the Dog Die is a website that tracks over 90 areas of potentially sensitive content on a film-by-film level.

Movie Health Community has been around for years, tracking films that include flashing lights and motion sickness. Please know: this site does not provide medical advice! It only provides awareness about potential content that may trigger biological responses.

Review aggregator sites like Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic provide plot synopses and content context, often without spoilers.

Common Sense Media is a fantastic site for determining age-appropriate concerns, as well as providing overall potential content triggers for any age audience.

Reach out to us! We love talking to our audience members, and if we can address your concern, we absolutely will.

Best Laid Plans...

Despite your and our diligence, there is always a chance you will find yourself at the Cinema experiencing a negative psychological or emotional reaction to a film. We’ve got you! Just look for one our House Managers, volunteers, or other staff. From providing you information for professionals who can help, to assisting in getting you home, or just giving you a quiet and private place to collect yourself, we’re here for you, no questions asked.


The Deep Dive on Movie Ratings

For those of you interested in the role MPA (Motion Picture Association, formerly known as the MPAA) ratings play in all this, read on!

The MPA (Motion Pictures Association) is a trade association that represents the major Hollywood Studios. They lobby studio interests, advocate for intellectual property protection, and run the ratings board, which is the body that provides film ratings for U.S. films.

We don’t know; membership is confidential.

There are no defined guidelines published by the MPA.

To a certain extent, ratings can be a general guide—not a specific measure—for quickly understanding what type of content may be in a film.

Ratings and IU Cinema

IU Cinema provides available MPA ratings on each of our films that are rated as guidance only, not as final arbiters of content, because MPA rating are notoriously flawed. Here are some reasons why.

  • MPA ratings are specific to the U.S., so foreign films often do not have them.
  • MPA ratings are voluntary, not required for U.S. films. While it’s unlikely that filmmakers won’t submit their films to the ratings board (movie theaters, particularly mainstream chain theaters, are loathe to play an unrated film), it does happen.
  • There is no set standard for what any rating means, meaning there is no list of content that triggers a PG, or an R, or a PG-13. The ratings board has a colloquial understanding of what type of content usually triggers a specific rating. In reality, it’s a totally subjective process.
  • Research has found that films made by marginalized filmmakers—women, BIPOC peoples, queer people—or containing subject matter primarily focused on these groups, are often subject to harsher ratings that films or filmmakers who don’t fall into these groups.

Unsurprisingly, there is a great film about U.S. movie ratings and their issues. It’s a documentary called This Film Is Not Yet Rated, and it’s absolutely worth a watch!